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Albion board gives blessing for Santa statue on Main Street

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 1 May 2016 at 12:00 am
Charles W. Howard

Photos by Tom Rivers – Charles Howard, founder of Santa Claus School in Albion, died 50 years ago today. This image shows Charles W. Howard on the cover on a report from January 1961 about the previous season at Christmas Park.

ALBION – Today is the 50th anniversary of the death of Charles Howard, one of Albion’s most prominent residents. Howard was a farmer and toymaker who started a Santa Claus School in 1937 on Phipps Road in Albion.

He played Santa in the Macy’s televised parades for about 20 years. He established standards for how Santas should look and act with children, principles that are still taught today to Santas around the world.

Howard expanded his school into Christmas Park, a destination for the community that remains a cherished memory for many local residents. After Howard’s death in 1966, the school was moved to Michigan. Today it is in Midland, Mich., and still bears Howard’s name.

Waterman Park

Waterman Park has room for a statue of Charles Howard and other displays about the founder of a Santa Claus School.

A committee in Albion has been working for more than a year on a memorial for Howard. The Village Board last week agreed to make Waterman Park, a half block south of the Erie Canal, available for a bronze statue of Howard as Santa Claus. The park will likely include interpretative panels, murals and other displays about Howard and Santa Claus.

The committee will now work on designs of the statue and park, hoping to have them ready for the community at the Strawberry Festival in June.

“I’m excited about it,” Mayor Dean London said on Wednesday when the board voted to back the effort.

The Albion Betterment Committee is taking the lead in a fund-raising campaign that could be about $100,000.

Santa suit

Photo by Tom Rivers – Howard made Santa Claus suits and other Christmas items from Christmas Park in Albion. This picture shows the tag inside a Santa suit.

The group was determined to have a site for Howard on Main Street, seeing a statue as a boost for other downtown businesses.